14 May 2018

More than an old car #65: Subaru Vivio RX-R

Subaru has been always popular in Singapore, due to the influx of the Forester SUV and the iconic Impreza with its many variants. Many people have fallen in love with its versatile boxer engine and its stellar performances during rallies. However, I believe most of us may not have heard about this 1992 Subaru Vivio RX-R until today.

Subaru started out as "The Aircraft Research Laboratory" in 1915 and it was reorganised to become the Nakajima Aircraft Company in 1932. The conglomerate was broken up after the war and spliced off into divisions, including Fuji Heavy Industries [FHI]. Kenji Kita, then CEO of FHI, asked for suggestions for a company name after deciding it should be involved in making cars. In the end, he called it "Subaru", which is Japanese for the Pleiades star cluster. The logo thus followed the name, so that is why it shows a group of stars. Interestingly, Subaru has also released an anime titled "Hokago no Pureadesu" ["Wish upon the Pleiades"] in collaboration with Gainax [an anime studio], where the protagonist is also called Subaru!

The Vivio is a kei car produced in 1992, placing it in the light car class and thus giving Japanese owners tax savings. Its name is derived from the engine's displacement of 660cc written in Roman numerals [VI, VI, O], and also inspired by the word "vivid". A few variants were produced, but you can distinguish the entry-level GL version with the supercharged RX-R by the hood scoop and rounded foglights.
The RX-R was often entered in rally events and it featured prominently in the 1993 Safari Rally. Despite not making a podium finish, it cemented its status as a rally legend. It was powered by a 658cc EN07Z i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 138 km/h with an acceleration of 16 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 3295 mm long and weighed 650 kg.

Production ended in 1998 with about 770,000 made in total. This unit is currently unregistered and it will probably remain this way, since there is already a roll cage installed at the back--could it be used for rallying? I have no idea who currently owns this, but it looks like a blast to drive such a cute car. I am aware of another unit in red, which is also unregistered. Many of you may not give it a second glance, but I hope all of you have the knowledge now to not do so!

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